The dialogue surrounding British metalcore outfit Bring Me the Horizon would be a bit different if frontman Oliver “Oli” Sykes looked more like Ozzy Osbourne and less like Winona Ryder’s 10th grade class picture -- that is, if Winona had spent freshman year getting tatted up from head to toe and coiffed by a hipster hairdresser.
The baby-faced 25-year-old can’t help the fact that he attracts a horde of Hot Topic-clad teen girls wherever he goes, and that, coupled with his ownership and operation of the Drop Dead clothing line, have metal and hardcore fans split into equal parts love and hate.
And then there’s that whole allegation from a few years back that Skyes urinated on a fan after one of their shows. Charges were dropped, but it’s just another thing that keeps the conversations away from the music, which is a shame, because that’s where it gets the most interesting.
The band’s 2006 debut, Count Your Blessings, didn’t feature very complex songwriting, but it was a relentless, sonic jackhammer to the face that found Sykes contorting his voice in a way that made him sound like an imp of the devil himself.
Suicide Season, from 2008, changed things up a bit, both musically and vocally, upping production values but further dividing fans. Last year’s There Is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let’s Keep It a Secret really found the band experimenting and featured the inclusion of guest vocalists, stretches of quiet ambient noise, electronic flourishes, sampling and choral sections. This was quite a feat, as their trademark down-tuned riffs, unforgiving double kicker and tortured vocals remained in tact. It is the band at their best thus far, but some fans still don’t know what to make of it.
I recently spoke with Sykes -- who, with the rest of the band, will kick off their U.S. tour with a stand at the House of Blues San Diego on Wednesday (Thursday's show has been canceled; see below) -- about all of it while he was backstage in Dublin, waiting to perform.
Scott McDonald: Thanks for taking the time.
Oli Sykes: Cheers, mate.
SM: What’s got everyone so riled up about the new album?
OS: I don’t know. I really don’t see any change -- in terms of aggression -- at all. The new album is more about developing and evolving our sound. And we certainly aren’t changing anything just to change, if you know what I mean. People talk a lot about Count Your Blessings because that’s the album we started off with, but they don’t really understand that people who are in bands and put out albums also change, get into new music and develop new ways of songwriting. We always want to do something a little different. It’s a natural progression, and we don’t want to just keep putting out the same record all the time.
SM: Such strong reactions.
OS: Whatever you do, there are always going to be some people that are unhappy and some who love it. When we did Suicide Season, some said, “Oh, this is not as fast, this is bulls---.” We must have lost some fans, but you can’t write music for anyone else. You’ve got to make it for yourself. We’re obviously not in it for the money or the fame, because we’ll never be that kind of band. We’re doing it because we love the music and it’s what we want to do. You have to take it on the nose and keep doing what you like or what’s the point?
SM: Did it change the live show?
OS: I guess the gigs have changed. They’re also more diverse. It’s cool that we can have these breaks, a few softer bits between the active bits, because it’s a vibe. It builds you up and makes the heavy songs even heavier. Who wants to play 12 songs that are exactly the same?
SM: Enjoy working with guest vocalists?
OS: It’s awesome. And I guess it’s something that we’re probably always going to do because it’s a lot of fun. Plus, there are a lot of bridges in music that are being burned right now between the genres. Everyone is in their own little scene, and I kinda don’t get it. If you like music, it shouldn’t really matter what kind it is, as long as it’s good. I think we’re bringing in artists that are doing something different than what we’re doing, and that adds depth.
SM: Worried about those vocal chords?
OS: I’m the most unprofessional singer you’ll ever talk to. I don’t do anything. I don’t warm up before we play, I don’t take anything special. I probably should, but I just get up there and do what I do.
SM: So, change is the only constant?
OS: I guess it’s hard for some people to understand. They think we’re changing and throwing away our old sound. It’s not that at all. We’ve all just done some growing up and done some growing up as musicians as well. And we don’t want to stop doing that.
Bring Me the Horizon:
House of Blues: Aug. 31 -- a show on Sept. 1 has been cancelled. Call (619) 299–BLUE (2583) for more information.
$22-32, all ages, doors at 6 p.m.